Four decades have gone by since the year 1979 when four young men left East Leaf Lake, north of Henning, entered Otter Tail Lake by canoe and paddled all the way to Hudson Bay.

Dennis Weidemann authored a book, “This Water Goes North,” which chronicles their adventure from May 8 in Otter Tail County and ending at York Factory trading post, on the southwest side of Hudson Bay, on July 12, 1979.

Weidemann, 22, had just graduated from Iowa State University when he planned the canoe route with his three friends. He selected Otter Tail County as the place to begin after spending time in this region with family members at lake cabins during the summer months.

His book is a recount of the 1,400-mile canoe route taken with his three fellow Iowa natives and grads of Iowa State.

Their journey includes traveling along the Otter Tail River, from Otter Tail Lake to Fergus Falls, where they portaged around the area power dams.

Then came the journey along the Otter Tail River from Fergus Falls to Breckenridge-Wahpeton where the Otter Tail meets the Bois de Sioux River to form the Red River of the North.

Traveling north along the Red River through Fargo, Grand Forks and Winnipeg was part of their adventure.

Their story reads like a novel.

This group of friends dropped everything in the name of adventure with beat-up canoes and limited supplies. But to their credit, they relied on their resourcefulness in devising ways and means to complete their journey.

You travel with them as you read the book, gliding through smooth waters in canoes and surviving rushing rivers.

After leaving East Leaf Lake in Otter Tail County on May 8 they reached the Canadian border by canoe on May 26. The group departed from Lake Winnipeg on June 17 and were thrilled and yet exhausted when arriving at York Factory, Hudson Bay, eight days after the Fourth of July.

Five days later, on July 17, 1979, the four young men headed home to their families in Iowa. They never forgot the start of their journey here in Otter Tail County.

Weidemann has spoken at libraries and various outdoor gatherings over the years.

Barsness taught science and driver’s education

Up until 1967, there were ninth-grade science classes on the third floor west in Washington School, Fergus Falls.

Clifford (C.O.) Barsness is remembered by many former students as an outstanding junior high science teacher and also as a driver’s education instructor.

“Mr. Barsness was an excellent science teacher,” says 1961 FFHS grad Ron Tate. “One day he was lecturing and mentioned a pet peeve: pharmaceutical company and medical safety experts who used flowery language when talking about antidotes for treating overdoses.”

He used one example: “They say ‘take copious drafts of water’ instead of simply saying ‘take lots of water.’ State the facts clearly.”

Tate also had Barsness, a World War II veteran, for driver’s education.

“Three students rotated turns driving,” Tate said. “Mr. Barsness taught driver’s ed with the same determination that every student would learn as he did in science classes.

“He was very animated and emphatic in his teaching style. I would bet that nearly every student recognized and remembers him as a stern, sincere, taskmaster.”

From Diane Anderson Prischmann, FFHS Class of 1965: “I remember that he really enforced that driving was a responsibility and not a right. That has stuck with me.”

She said that part of ninth grade science was a driver’s ed class.

“Each of us stared into a small homemade box with a bright bulb in it so that we could test our reaction time after being beamed by bright headlights. Mr. Barsness asked me if I could see anything. I couldn’t and we established I was a bit night blind, and I am to this very day.”

Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.


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